Big Sur, California Coast
Every year, when Spring comes around, I automatically think of visiting the Monterey Peninsula and Big Sur areas of the California coast. Not only to see the “magic purple carpet” of flowers in Pacific Grove, but also the wildflowers and spectacular scenery of the Big Sur area. The coastal beautiful there is like a paradise to me… I’m so lucky to live in the Bay Area and love visiting this area at least once a year, even if we don’t go that far south.
Big Sur is known as one of the most scenic stretches of undeveloped coastline in the United States. It’s a rugged and mountainous section of the Central Coast of California south of the Carmel Highlands with unparalleled coastal beauty. The northern part is about a two-hour drive from San Francisco and is an amazing place to visit for a day trip or a weekend trip. It’s also perfect to combine with a visit to the Monterey Peninsula since they are right next to each other!
If you’re visiting the area and want to experience the stunning scenery Big Sur is known for, here are four suggestions for places to visit that I know you’ll love! These places capture the natural and rugged beauty of the area so well, and can all be visited on a leisurely day.
Visitor tip – Expect light to heavy fog and chilly weather in this coastal area in the mornings regardless of the season. The fog should clear up by mid-day if the sun is out. Make sure to dress in layers!
Note – This post only covers some of my favorite spots between Carmel and Rocky Point. There are many other stunning and iconic spots further south along the Pacific Coast Highway of course, including the famous Bixby Beach and McWay Falls.
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is a beautiful hidden treasure of Big Sur. Just a short walk into the park is the easy and very scenic 0.8-mile Bird Island Trail. Along this trail, you’ll be able to see lots of wildlife, including sea lions, sea otters, lots of cormorants, western gulls, and many other types of birds, especially in the Spring.
Bird Island is named for the large sea bird colony found there in Spring and Summer. Hundreds of Brandt’s cormorants nest close together. On the way to Bird Island, you’ll pass by the stunning deep blue-green waters of China Cove. In the Spring, this area is home to many harbor seals nursing their newborn pups.
The park website has an interactive map here.
Views From the Rocky Point Restaurant
Just 20 minutes south of Point Lobos is the Rocky Point Restaurant, where you can have a great lunch with the best coastal views of any restaurant along the coast! Rocky Point and the beach below are framed beautifully by the red flowers that the restaurant maintains. In addition, Bixby Bridge can be seen further down Highway 1 on a clear day. The restaurant has both indoor seating and plenty of outdoor seating in their beautiful patio. This is a great place for a walk after lunch as well.
Enjoying the view at Rocky Point
Garrapata State Park
Garrapata State Park is located in between Point Lobos and Rocky Point and is a great place to enjoy the stunning coastal scenery. The coastal trails are covered with yellow wildflowers in the Spring and Summer (these pictures were taken in late June). The soft yellow and green tones complemented the blue-grey coastal waters so beautifully.
This area is also known for having stunning white calla lily flowers in the Spring!
Mission Ranch Hotel and Restaurant
For dinner in an amazing setting, or just a quick stop, the Mission Ranch Hotel and Restaurant in Carmel-by-the-Sea should be a part of your visit, if only to see the large field of grazing sheep that they maintain!
If you found this article helpful, please share or leave a comment below! Thank you and I have you have a wonderful trip if you have one planned! ❤️